If you are like I am I love noticing the landscapes of houses and neighborhoods as I’m driving around town. I like to see what people have done but not only give thought to the potential that many homes have for fresh landscape projects. This spring I see many neighbors are going to have landscape projects in common. Living Fences! Since the beginning of March, I have spoken to many people. By far the most asked question has been “what I can do with my privacy screen that isn’t so private anymore”. Many rows of evergreens were severely damaged during our string of late winter storms. In some cases, these wonderful old hedges can be rehabbed but in many more, the only option is to start fresh. In the past weeks, we received many shipments of some of the nicest Emerald Green and Green Giant arborvitaes I have seen in some time. They are bombers, fat and full, with many sizes to choose from. It is so nice to see fresh stock rolling in.

I hope most of you have great neighbors like I do. However, for those of you that don’t, a lush living fence will prevent a Hatfield and McCoy feud from breaking out. None of us want that!

When most of us hear the term privacy we think of passwords and electronics, and handheld devices. Being a plantsman, the first things I think of are living fences and privacy screens. Emerald Green and Green Giant arborvitaes make the perfect living fence. Emeralds have a tall, narrow growth habit maturing to 12-15’ tall and 4’ wide. Their natural shape makes them the perfect choice for planting along property lines. We recommend planting on three-foot centers, this will ensure a dense screen for years to come. Watch out for deer they love Emeralds as well.

If you are in need of a larger screen Green Giant is the way to go. They grow up to 3 feet a year truly living up to their name. They will mature to 25-30’ tall and about 10’ wide. They are very easy to shear if you would like to keep them a bit smaller. We offer them in many sizes from small 3’ tall all the way to 12’ for an instant living fence. Oh, did I mention they are deer resistant!

I invite you to visit us at the garden center and we will be happy to help you get started with your project. We offer delivery and planting services anywhere in the state or we can coach you through the planting process for all do-it-yourself projects as well.

Jason Scire

Nursery Manager

On any given day you can visit the garden center and overhear customers asking for ‘’dwarf” plants. Usually, when the term dwarf comes to mind we think of small shrubs and flowering plants. Well, surprisingly those aren’t the only dwarf plants we offer at the garden center. We have a great selection of dwarf trees!

We like to refer to them at Van Wilgen’s as “Small Space Trees”. If you are like me and have a small yard but want to plant trees there are some awesome options out there. Here is a list of my top ten favorites. Many of them I have planted in my yard and love them! I invite you to come and visit the garden center and check them out.

  1. Limelight Hydrangea Tree- Awesome white flower color from summer to fall. Van Wilgen Grown
  2. Rising Sun Red Bud-Great early spring color, first to flower. One-of-a-kind foliage color!
  3. Thundercloud Plum-Small pink flowers followed by purple leaves. Van Wilgen Grown
  4. Coral bark Japanese Maple-Winter is when it’s at its best! Coral-pink bark all winter long!
  5. Scarlet Fire Dogwood-New disease-resistant hybrid. Deepest pink flower for a kousa. Great texture to bark and excellent fall color.
  6. Little Poncho Dogwood-The name says it all. For those that want a Kousa dogwood but don’t have a lot of space! Mine at home flowers for 6 weeks plus!
  7. Rhode Island Red Japanese Maple-great upright maple but on a very small scale. Deep red foliage all season.
  8. Baby Blue Spruce-this grafted spruce has the deepest blue color and keeps it!

How to plant has always been a frequently asked question at the garden center. What do I do if my plant is in a pot…How do I plant a burlap tree? Does the basket stay on or do I take it off? These are all questions we will cover in this Planting Guide.

Regardless of whether your plant is in a pot or balled and burlap, big or small the first step is to dig a hole 2-3 times the width of the root ball. Your hole should be no deeper than the root ball is in height. This is very important. If any plant is planted too deeply it may lead to failure. If your plant is in a container remove the pot and score the roots with a sharp knife or scratch the roots with a 3 or 4 pronged hand cultivator. Now add Van Wilgen’s Premium Planting mix to your existing soil from the hole. Place your plant in the hole making sure the top of the root ball is either at ground level or just slightly higher. This step will ensure the plant isn’t too deep or over-mulched. Now it is time to apply either apply Van Wilgen’s Jumpstart or Organic Root Boost directly to the root system of the plant. The next step is to backfill the hole with your mixture of Van Wilgen’s Planting Mix and existing soil. Lightly tamp the soil to remove any air pockets. If you are planting a balled-in burlap tree or shrub follow the same steps as mentioned above. Instead of removing the container take off all burlap and the wire basket. This will ensure your plant doesn’t develop girdled roots.

Once your plant is backfilled you can apply a 2-3” layer of mulch to the base of your new planting. Be sure to keep the mulch at least 3’’ away from the stem of any plant. Mulching will not only give your planting a beautiful finished look but it will help retain moisture for the root system.

The last step is to thoroughly water in the plant. Typically, infrequent deep-watering is better for root development than short infrequent watering. Please ask a Van Wilgen Team Member for a Van Wilgen Watering Guide for more detailed directions on watering.

JASON SCIRE, Nursery Manager

Just as you need the energy to get through your day, your plants do too. And of course, when it comes to family-friendly gardening, organic fertilizer is the way to go!

What is Organic Fertilizer?

Organic fertilizers contain only ingredients from plant, animal, or mineral sources. Examples of these kinds of ingredients are bone meal, kelp meal, and greensand.

Why Use Organic Fertilizers?

While it is true that all fertilizers ultimately feed nutrients to plants in the same form, it is the process by which they are delivered that makes organic fertilizers superior to others.

Three ways to think about organic fertilizers:

1. Gardening always starts with the soil. Organic fertilizer “feeds the soil that feeds the plants”. The process by which organic fertilizers deliver their nutrients enhances the fertility and structure of the soil.

Organic fertilizers are digested by soil microorganisms, which then release the nutrients in a form available to plants. This process produces humus, a spongy material that improves soil structure. When you improve soil structure, the soil is better able to hold the proper balance of water, air, and nutrients until they are required by plants.

Plants respond by developing larger root systems. Larger roots support more vigorous top growth and make plants less susceptible to drought. And by stimulating a healthy population of beneficial microorganisms in the soil, plants become more resistant to insects and diseases.

2. Organic fertilizers will provide slow, steady feeding, as the plants require it. The release process is slow and largely dependent upon three factors: the microbial population in the soil, moisture, and soil temperature.

A healthy population of microbes in the soil is necessary for the digestion process. Moisture is required to sustain microbial life as well as to keep nutrients flowing into the plant’s root zone. And soil temperature is critical because as it rises, plants require nutrients more rapidly.

Fortunately, microbial activity mimics these requirements and increases as soil temperature rises, so that organic fertilizers feed the needed nutrients as the plants require them.

3. Most of the time, the gardener isn’t the only one in the garden. Organic fertilizers are the safest choice for your plants and the environment. Unlike synthetic plant foods, organic fertilizers have an extremely low salt index, which means there is little to no risk of burning (dehydrating) plants in periods of extreme drought or when over-applying.

Organic fertilizers are generally very resistant to leaching out of the soil, so their nutrients stay in the root zone until the plants need them. And since most organic ingredients are byproducts from commercial farms and meat processing plants, the utilization of them for feeding plants is really a system of recycling much like composting.

So, when the debate of whether you should fertilize your plants pops in your head remember: organic fertilizer is the right choice for you and your family. Check out our fertilizers here.

Show your lawns some love this spring. Not only did trees & shrubs suffer from this snowy & windy winter, but our lawns also struggled quite a bit too. Snowplows scraped up edges of lawns along roads and driveways. Snow shovels scuffed up the lawns alongside walkways. Heavy, wet snow sat on our lawns causing bare patches and diseased areas. Salt dropped for melting ice burned out many lawn edges. Don’t forget about damaging tree limbs and branches fallen all over the ground. Now doesn’t all that make you want to show your lawn some love?!

The snow has melted (I hope). First things first…

  1. CLEAN SLATE: Take a good heavy-duty rake, get outside, get some exercise and clean up all the winter debris on your lawn. If some of the grass tears up easily, that is okay. It means it was not going to make it through the year anyway.
  2. SOIL TEST: Go to the CT Agricultural Experiment Station in New Haven to get an initial reading of your soil. Knowing the Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium, and pH levels of your lawn will get you off to a great start. Bring your tests to me at the Van Wilgen’s Solution Center!
  3. GYPSUM: If salt damage from the winter storms has affected your lawn health, apply Gypsum. This is a wonderful, underused product that greatly reduces saline in your soil, improves soil conditions, and loosens compact soil.
  4. FAST-ACTING LIME: If you got a soil test and checked your pH, we will know exactly how much lime you need to apply. If you just want to wing it, that’s okay because we always need at least a maintenance rate of lime every year to help our acidic CT soil.
  5. MOSS OUT: The absolute best time to get rid of moss is when the temperatures are cooler out. Moss grows most actively when it is chilly out. Eliminate the moss now and seed after.
  6. SEED: Do not leave bare patches on your lawn. If you do, beware! Weeds will take over big time and this is a battle you just don’t want. The best defense against weeds is a thick stand of turf, so seed, seed seed.

The attention you give your lawn now will pay off in spades later so show your lawn some spring lawn love.


*Encap’s Fast Acting Gypsum

*Encap’s Fast Acting Lime

*Lilly Miller’s Moss Out

*Van Wilgen’s Grass Seed

*Starter Fertilizer

*Greenview’s Grass Seed Accelerator or Seed Success

*Mainely Mulch

This time of year we are all itching to get in the garden. All it takes is a few warm days, some sunshine and we are all ready to dig in the dirt. At the garden center we get asked all the time, what can I plant now? There are many choices for early spring perennials, and with proper planting, you too can have beautiful blooms this time of year. Just be sure to amend your soil with Van Wilgens Premium Planting Mix and add Jump Start to push root growth so your perennials have a healthy start. Top with mulch so your blooms stay nice and cozy and your good to go! Here a few of my early spring favorites.

  1. Hellebore- Great shade-tolerant deer-resistant perennial that comes in a rainbow of colors
  2. Candytuft (Iberis)- profuse white blooms and neat mounding habit make for a perfect early season edging plant
  3. Columbine (Aquilegia)- Eastern US Native with distinctive show-stopping flowers
  4. Creeping phlox- Gorgeous mounding groundcover with pastel flowers giving way to mossy green foliage
  5. Forget me not (Myosotis)- Long-lasting, true blue flowers make for an unforgettable plant
  6. Rockfoil (Saxifraga)- a super cold hardy plant with early blooms that’s at home in any alpine planter or garden
  7. Yellow Alyssum (Aurinia)- traditional cottage garden border plant that’s also at home in alpine gardens or as a border groundcover
  8. Windflower (Anemone)- The early spring entry in this broad plant family provides huge blooms in an array of colors to brighten up any spring landscape

Will O’Hara

Perennial Manager

We have all heard the phrase ‘April Showers bring May Flowers’ but it turns out there are few things we need to do to freshen up our gardens. April is the perfect time for spring clean-up! Starting with simple raking and going for a clean slate in the garden, prune any broken branches, and fix any uneven ground by adding Van Wilgen’s Topsoil or Compost. Next is the all-important new layer of mulch. Mulching is the perfect way to get your garden off to a great start. Not only does it help settle in the roots, but it will provide warmth, hold in moisture, suppress weeds, encourage growth, and make your beds look all around beautiful.

We understand that everyone has their own style when it comes to mulch. Whether it’s the classic look of Black Mulch or Van Wilgen’s favorite Pine Bark Mulch we have one that’s just right for your landscape. Probably the biggest question we get is “how much mulch do I need?”, no problem, visit VANWILGENS.COM click on the mulch tab and we have a handy mulch calculator. Pop in the dimensions of your bed and how thick you would like it and we do the work for you! Would you rather have your mulch delivered? We just made that a little easier for you, you can also order mulch online and schedule delivery right to your home. Easy peasy!

Not quite sure what you are looking for and need a visual to get your creative juices flowing? Our North Branford store has several display gardens for you to walk through, sometimes seeing it in person is just what you need for inspiration. We hope to see you soon!

Jason Scire, Nursery Manager